Follow breaking news @lgbtqnation

Michael Sam’s coming out: Tolerance is about to be tested in the NFL

Monday, February 10, 2014
In this Sept. 21, 2013, file photo, Missouri's Michael Sam (52) sings the school song after Missouri defeated Indiana in an NCAA college football game in Bloomington, Ind. The All-American athlete says he is gay, and the defensive end could become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

Darron Cummings, AP
In this Sept. 21, 2013, photo, Missouri’s Michael Sam (52) sings the school song after Missouri defeated Indiana in an NCAA college football game in Bloomington, Ind. The All-American athlete says he is gay, and the defensive end could become the first openly homosexual player in the NFL.

Tolerance is about to be tested in the National Football League.

And Michael Sam hopes his ability is all that matters, not his sexual orientation.

Missouri’s All-America defensive end came out to the entire country Sunday night and could become the first openly gay player in America’s most popular sport.

“I just want to go to the team who drafts me,” Sam told ESPN in an interview that aired Sunday, “because that team knows about me, knows that I’m gay, and also knows that I work hard. That’s the team I want to go to.”

APMichael Sam

AP
Michael Sam

In interviews with ESPN, The New York Times and Outsports, Sam said publicly for the first time that he was gay. He said he came out to his teammates and coaches at Missouri in August.

Nobody has ever done this before.

Sam will participate in the NFL combine later this month in Indianapolis and is projected to be a mid-round draft pick in May.

“Hopefully it will be the same like my locker room,” he told ESPN. “It’s a workplace. If you’ve ever been in a Division I or pro locker room, it’s a business place. You want to act professional.”

Sam received much public support Sunday night from people throughout the world of sports.

“I can’t wait to cheer for whatever lucky team that drafts @MikeSamFootball. Personally I hope he goes to my favorite team. The @Colts” tweeted Jason Collins, the pro basketball player who said publicly last season that he is gay.

There also were words of caution.

Offensive lineman Frank Garcia, who played nine seasons (1995-2003) in the NFL with the Panthers, Rams and Cardinals, said Sam could face “huge challenges” in the league.

Garcia was teammates and good friends with defensive lineman Esera Tuaolo, who announced he was gay on HBO’s Real Sports in 2002 — three years after he left the NFL.

Garcia said although he and Tuaolo regularly hung out as teammates in Carolina in 1999, Tuaolo never once let on that he was gay.

“I think a lot of guys in the NFL are going to say they will accept it, but there are a lot of guys who won’t,” said Garcia, now a sports radio show host with WFNZ-AM in Charlotte. “The reality is Michael Sam is going to open himself up to a lot of criticism and a lot of challenges. Those are challenges most gay people have to go through, but when you are dealing with alpha males and some meatheads in an NFL locker room it’s amplified. And there are some guys who have strong religious beliefs, too, so he’s going to be judged. He’s going to face some things that are going to be very difficult to overcome.”

The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Sam participated in the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last month after leading the Southeastern Conference in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (19). He was the SEC defensive player of the year.

There have been a few NFL players who have come out after their playing days, including Kwame Harris and Dave Kopay.

Collins, a 35-year-old backup center, came out after last season when he was a free agent and was not signed this season. MLS star and U.S. national team player Robbie Rogers also came out a year ago.

“His courage will inspire millions to live their truth,” Rogers tweeted about Sam.

Division III Willamette kicker Conner Mertens, a redshirt freshman, said last month he was bisexual.

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage,” the NFL said in statement. “Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

Sam’s announcement comes at a time gay rights and sports have collided at the Olympics in Sochi. Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law has received much attention, and criticism, because of the games.

“By rewriting the script for countless young athletes, Michael has demonstrated the leadership that, along with his impressive skills on the field, makes him a natural fit for the NFL,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, president of GLAAD, a leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization. “With acceptance of LGBT people rising across our coasts — in our schools, churches, and workplaces — it’s clear that America is ready for an openly gay football star.”

The NFL’s sexual orientation, anti-discrimination and harassment policy states:

“Coaches, General Managers and others responsible for interviewing and hiring draft-eligible players and free agents must not seek information concerning or make personnel decisions based on a player’s sexual orientation. This includes asking questions during an interview that suggest that the player’s sexual orientation will be a factor in the decision to draft or sign him.

“Examples: Do you like women or men? How well do you do with the ladies? Do you have a girlfriend?”

Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams tweeted: “I could care less about a man’s sexual preference! i care about winning games and being respectful in the locker room!”

Williams’ teammate, cornerback Drayton Florence, posted on his Twitter account: “No comment but it can be a distraction in the locker room. At least he’s open with it much respect!”

© 2014, Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Share this article with your friends and followers:

Archives: , , , , ,

Filed under: National Headlines, [ Editor's Picks ], [ Trending ]

41 more reader comments:

  1. Tolerance goes both ways.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:38pm
  2. what does that mean?

    Replied on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:40pm
  3. what do you mean by that?

    Replied on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:45pm
  4. WHUCK?!?!?!?

    Replied on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:49pm
  5. I think she means that if people stop hating then we'll stop bitching and wishing homophobes don't exist.

    Replied on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:53pm
  6. OK Gay folks will stop blocking laws that give straight folks rights. Deal.

    Replied on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:09pm
  7. Nfl will never change. Get ride of the NFl Commissioner

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:40pm
  8. <3

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:40pm
  9. corage…that is strength from the heart and commitment

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:41pm
  10. Please stop using the word “tolerance”. We tolerate things that cause us pain or aggravation. I do not wish to be tolerated. Acceptance is the goal.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:44pm
  11. He is a strong, proud young man. I hope many more people come out so the focus is not only on him. Glad he can be who he is, out in the open and people should just get over their bad shitty selves.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:44pm
  12. Yep, yall need to get over your bad shitty selves

    Replied on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 3:59pm
  13. Great job!!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:46pm
  14. Proud of him! And happy to hear that his college teammates and coaches were so supportive. Will be happy to cheer him on at the next level. What a strong and courageous young man!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:46pm
  15. Well said, Stacy!!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:47pm
  16. Not tolerance, acceptance. Everyone is created equal!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:47pm
  17. Yes it is. And it’s about time.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:49pm
  18. leave the man be … so what hes gay! no one cares one way or another …

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:50pm
  19. What team does he play for? I may start watching football now…

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:53pm
  20. Gotta grab the bull by the horns!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:55pm
  21. The part that worries me is the his talent on the field will either be under judged and push him down the draft or his “celebrity” will be exploited and he will be chosen too high for the media coverage he will receive. He is graded as a mid round pick at this point and I hope it doesnt hurt his stock. He should be allowed to pursue a career just like anyone else. This is uncharted waters for the NFL handle it cautiously.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:55pm
  22. I feel awful to live in a country that makes something that’s none of my business, so absurdly urgent….what ever happened to live and let live

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:56pm
  23. When the bigots in this country stop trying to dictate how I & my friends should live, and start practicing "live & let live," something like Michael Sams' coming out will no longer be urgent news. Until then, we will continue to make it news, continue coming out & continue fighting for the equality of life that you probably take for granted.

    Replied on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 2:30pm
  24. Sydney Pants, I think a lot of people care because as a gay person, we have to hide who we are a lot of the time. Unless I’m downtown a large city, I still don’t feel comfortable holding my girlfriend’s hand. That’s not even me unnecessarily worrying; we’ve got awful and rude comments before. But we can handle it. But what about the little kids who are scared and confused? Seeing more people on tv, in sports, in the movies, anywhere, that are like them helps. Representation is a great thing.

    Besides, he gets to live his life in the open now. He can go on a date with a guy without people freaking out, tabloids being crazy, so on and so forth.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:56pm
  25. This is amazing. Because of his courage to come out, hes going to be an inspiration to all those men who love sports, are gay, but too afraid to come out

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 1:58pm
  26. Yes it will…

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 2:02pm
  27. That’s good. Since straight people think it’s ok to proclaim their straightness, why should gays remain quiet…..

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 2:24pm
  28. Proud of him for speaking out! Also worried about reprocussions for this outstanding athlete.NFL may not be so proud!

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 2:36pm
  29. My husband goes to the school he played for. I used to but that school ain’t cheap

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 2:38pm
  30. Lion stregth.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 2:56pm
  31. Some will be, some won’t be, take it or leave it.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 2:59pm
  32. Yates Yates he gay and black. NFL is not having it! He got his five minutes of fame. Hopefully a book deal comes out of it but chances are no one will sign him. Watch. NFL is very closed to lgbtq sportsmen

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 3:08pm
  33. We’re just setting ourselves up to yell homophobia if he doesn’t make it into the nfl by reading articles like this.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 3:13pm
  34. He is a pioneer! Reality is at hand. The NFL, like the rest of the world, will evolve… More players will come out… Between those players and other allies in the NFL, voices of hate will fade. Even now things are said publicly and apologies always follow.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 3:27pm
  35. The strength and bravery this took.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 3:27pm
  36. What a courageous young man Michael Sam is! I hope things go well for him.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 3:37pm
  37. I don’t think I’ve ever read the comments regarding an lgbtq issue where there wasn’t a negative comment. Thank you, awesome humans, for proving that theory wrong in this post. :)

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 4:47pm
  38. It’s also being tested once again online. The cruel and ignorant posts by “Christian” trolls on many of these posts are astoundingly exasperating.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 4:56pm
  39. Every step of the way people have had to fight the NFL for human rights. This is just one of those steps.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:02pm
  40. It is long over due, been there in the dark too long.

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 5:29pm
  41. My thing with the NFL, It really should not matter if he is or not. The NFL is an over paid profession. It is a job! There shouldn’t be any sexual intent in the locker room anyway. Why do men and Americans have so my shame and problem with this?

    Posted on Monday, February 10, 2014 at 6:20pm